1. How does Ralph pursue his leadership qualities?2. Why does he take part in Simon's murder?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Once chosen leader by the votes of the other boys stranded on the island, Ralph, who in appearance looks the part of a leader, is astute enough to select Piggy as an adviser; in addition, he possesses leadership abilities both inherited and learned from his father, who is a military officer.
2. Ralph's is a passive participation in Simon's murder; instead, he becomes caught up in the mass hysteria of the hunters who begin their ritual chant about killing a pig when Simon inadvertently gets drawn into their frenzied circle.

  • A handsome "golden boy"--the stereotypical hero of the time period in which the novel was written--Ralph is a natural pick for leader; in addition, he is twelve, so he is one of the older boys who would naturally be selected as leaders. Moreover, Ralph thinks as a leader:

...if you [are] a chief, you [have] to think,.... be wise […].... grab at a decision"         

Also, he recognizes in Piggy the acute mind of a rational thinker, so he allows the unattractive, heavy boy with glasses and asthma to be his friend. He uses the conch, which Piggy suggests can be blown as a horn, to call the boys to assemblies. At these assemblies Ralph wants order, and he urges the boys to maintain a rescue fire and to build shelters. He tries to get along with Jack by letting him be the leader of the hunters, but he is often ineffective in maintaining the upper hand with the rebellious and envious Jack. However, when Jack steals the fire, Ralph listens to the advice of Piggy, who suggests that they build a fire on the beach since Jack and the others have control of the mountain. Always Ralph "binds himself together with his will" and urges the boys to remember that being rescued is the most important goal they should have.

  • In Chapter Eight Ralph, Piggy, and others are tending the fire on the beach when Jack and the hunters return. The other boys go with the hunters because they are very hungry and desire the meat that will be roasted. Piggy and Ralph decide to join the others--ironically as it turns out--"to make sure nothing happens." In the meantime, Simon has spoken to the Lord of the Flies, become bloodied, and passed out. When he comes to, he heads down the mountain to tell the boys what has happened; however, as he descends, he encounters the decaying body of the parachutist, so he hurries to inform everyone that there is no beast and that the evil is within themselves. But, unfortunately, the hunters are in such a frenzy after lightning strikes that they decide to reenact the death of the pig; they begin shouting "Kill the beast! Slit his throat!" As they are in this frenzied state, Simon stumbles forward into the circle they have formed and shouts about a "dead man on a hill"; however, the boys are swept up by mass hysteria and they begin to strike Simon until "[T]here were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws." Even Piggy and Ralph are caught up in this savage fury of mass sadism:

Piggy and Ralph, under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society.

On the next morning, Ralph comes to his senses and realizes that he and Piggy have been guilty of joining in on the beating death of Simon; nevertheless, Piggy denies knowledge, asserting that they were "scared."

"Oh, Piggy!"
"Don't you understand, Piggy? The things we did--"

Ralph declares that Simon's death was murder, but Piggy, too weak to accept his complicity in the evening's actions, fearfully shrieks that it was only an accident.

Read the study guide:
Lord of the Flies

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